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That two of the three Oscar nominations from India this year were about the need to coexist mindfully with our flora and fauna screams of its pressing pertinence. Our filmmakers are doing their bit. Now the Academy Award has taken cognizance too. When will we spring to action?
It’s been seven years since a medical student throwing a dog from a terrace in Chennai created a nationwide uproar, but unfortunately, not much has changed since. Sure, it’s become fashionable to turn vegan, faux fur is in vogue, and the conversation against animal cruelty is more robust than ever, but in the grand scheme of all that needs doing, it is just a speck of dust.
This is why The Elephant Whisperers winning the Academy Award in the Best Documentary (Short) category is so important. It has put Indian documentaries on the global map and given wildlife conservation a front-row seat on the world’s biggest stage. Though the Kartiki Gonsalves film isn’t overtly political in its messaging, in 41 minutes, it beautifully communicates the essence—this planet and its riches aren’t ours to plunder. We share it with all that breathes and roams the earth. As the most sentient beings in the living world, we, therefore, have a massive responsibility to shoulder.
The Elephant Whisperers reiterates the key learning of My Octopus Teacher, the Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed film that won the Oscar for the best documentary (feature) in 2020—that we’re a part of this place, not a visitor; and therefore, we need to live and behave accordingly. Ehrlich and Reed scoured False Bay’s ocean floor in search of meaning. Gonsalves meanders through the forests of Tamil Nadu’s Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. The protagonist of the first film finds solace in befriending an octopus, the elderly couple in the second in raising two baby elephants.